San Diego

Former USWNT Defender Praises Team for Pioneering Efforts in Women's Sports

The U.S. Women's National Soccer Team filed a discrimination lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation Friday, claiming their pay and treatment is less compared to the male players.

A San Diegan who roamed the pitch with the USWNT for seven years told NBC 7 Friday's lawsuit isn’t a surprise because the team has been kicking gender equality to the forefront of issues in their sport for some time.

Rachel Van Hollebeke, known during her playing days as Rachel Buehler, played defender on the national team from 2008 to 2015 and won two Olympic gold medals. She says a day in the cleats of female players mirrors those of the men.

"Very typical to what the men do, very similar. Basically revolve around training and meeting, taking care of your body,” she said.

Despite the similarities in the day-to-day responsibilities, Van Hollebeke says there have always been distinct differences in how the two genders were treated, especially when it comes to compensation.

Not only are their salaries much higher, the men’s team often gets charter flights to games and other perks and amenities the women seldom see.

"The Women's National Team has actually been a pioneer going back to when they went on strike many years ago to get paid at all to play,” Van Hollebeke said.

She says the lawsuit filed by 28 players sends a message on International Women's Day. She hopes the strides being taken lead eventually to men and women playing the game they love on equal playing fields.

"I'm really proud of my former teammates and for the team in general for continuing to kind of push that next level in women sports,” she said. “Fight for equality for what women's deserve."

The U.S. Soccer Federation claims any difference in pay between genders is because of separate collective bargaining agreements. The USWNT has not responded to NBC 7’s request for comment.

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